There is barely an area of consumer electronics that Sony does not have a hand in, and its contributions are seldom substandard in quality.
There is barely an area of consumer electronics that Sony does not have a hand in, and its contributions are seldom substandard in quality. In this months Labs the DCRTRV828 DV camera is no exception, loaded with a healthy range of features and overall strong picture quality that live up to the standards that most people come to expect from Sony.
The Sony DV camera is far and away the largest and the heaviest when lined up against the other cameras on test in the Labs, approaching a full kilogram in weight and a little over 22cm in length. The Canon MV3i almost looks like a toy in comparison, and some may find the Sony a tad unwieldy. This is due in part to the size of the larger Digital 8 tape-based media employed by the Sony, which is also backwards compatible with Hi8 media used with Sonys analogue range of video cameras. Digital 8 has slightly less storage capacity than the mini-DV tape format, with a standard 90min tape allowing 60mins slow play and 90mins of long play recording and playback time. Also, the mini-DV format has seen a more widespread adoption and is certainly more prevalent among the other cameras in the Labs. For digital stills, the DCRTRV828 comes with Sonys own 4MB MemoryStick, and can be configured to shoot in one of three quality modes in either 1,152 x 864 or 640 x 480 pixel resolution.
The image device consists of a sizable 1.07 megapixel CCD, and is coupled with an impressive 500x digital zoom, and even more impressively an 18x optical zoom. Capable of shooting in all manner of lighting conditions, the Sony features Super NightShot technology, meaning the DCRTRV828 can shoot in zero lux - or zero illumination - conditions, utilising the infrared spectrum via the infrared sensor at the front of the camera. In handling, the record button sits comfortably beneath your right thumb - if a bit on the small side - and the zoom toggle and still shot button can be operated easily with your forefinger. The left side of the camera opens up revealing a sizable 3.5in LCD display that effectively rotates through 270 degrees and flips back against the camera to face outwards, with a host of controls to edit or delete specific takes on the fly using the control buttons underneath.
The on-screen menu interface is navigated using a small flywheel at the back of the unit, through which you can select from an array of funky digital effects to augment your movies like Sepia tone, Mosaic, and Solarize. Switching between Camera, VCR and Memory modes offers a context sensitive menu that is fairly simple in layout to follow. A standard set of recording and playback buttons are arranged at the top of the Sony making it a simple matter to playback recordings in VCR mode.
A solid range of options, including S-Video and Sonys proprietary version of IEEE 1394 or FireWire, covers connectivity to both the PC and the VCR. Two rubber panels pop off to reveal the ports, with USB, i.LINK and LANC connections grouped together and S-Video and AV ports under the other.
Weighing up the quality of the image, it is apparent that the Sony did not quite match the likes of the JVC or small Canon MV3i models, especially in the appearance of detail and resolution captured despite the generous CCD. Nonetheless, the Sony was very notable in the overall brightness and vibrant colour of the captured images and likewise motion capture was relatively free of overt motion blurring when compared to the other cameras in the Labs. The Sony DV camera is laden with features which make it somewhat akin to a V8 Statesman, like the large LCD screen, 500x digital zoom and the size, which may not appeal to all. However if your arm is up to it, the Sony makes for a great buy.
This Review appeared in the October, 2001 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine